Australian wheelchair rugby team storms to victory in thrilling 50-48 win over France – bringing them one step closer to Olympic gold
- Australian wheelchair rugby team ‘Steelers’ defeated France in 50-48 win
- With the win, the rugby team has a chance to win the third Paralympic gold medal
- Steelers semifinal hopes lie in victory against an undefeated Japan in Friday’s game
The Australian wheelchair rugby team have kept their dreams of a Paralympic three-peat alive after a series of clutches in the closing minutes of a thrilling 50-48 win over France.
The Steelers’ hopes of reaching the semi-finals were hanging by a thread after suffering a shocking 54-53 loss to newcomer Denmark on Wednesday.
It meant that a loss to France would have put an end to Australia’s hopes of winning a third consecutive Paralympic gold medal.
Steelers of team Australia (pictured) claim victory against France in wheelchair rugby at the Paralympic Games
The Steelers were also without lead actor Michael Ozanne, who had to miss Thursday’s game due to illness.
With scores 41-41 halfway through the final quarter, Thursday’s game was subtly even.
But Australia was able to score three consecutive tries thanks to two massive defensive plays.
Star Australian Ryley Batt managed to knock his opponent back across the center line to cause a turnover.
A short time later, Andrew Harrison made a huge moment of his own when he unleashed a big hit that resulted in his opponent fidgeting the ball out of bounds.
The pairing moves allowed Australia to build a match-winning lead of three tries, with the Steelers holding their nerves at death.
The Steelers took a 50-48 win over France after a devastating loss to Denmark threatened their chances of reaching the semi-finals
During the game, Shae Graham also became the first woman to represent the Steelers at a Paralympic Games.
Graham made some key defensive plays, scoring a try and assisting in a bright three-minute cameo during the second term.
Batt finished with 25 tries and a crucial steal in a best-on-court display, while Andrew Edmondson came in with nine tries.
The Australians’ semi-final hopes now lie in the fate of Friday’s game against undefeated Japan
Jonathan Hivernat played for France with 29 tries.
The Steelers will face undefeated Japan in their final group game on Friday.
Even if they do take a win, their hopes of reaching the semi-finals may come down to points for and against.
Only the top two teams from each group advance to the semi-finals.
Japan has two wins to their name, while Australia and Denmark have one each.
France, which will face Denmark on Friday, has not yet booked a victory.
Ozanne missed the showdown with France because of a urinary tract infection – a fairly common problem for someone with higher levels of spinal cord injury.
Australian team management stressed that he has tested negative for COVID-19.
Ozanne will be checked prior to a call about his availability for the game in Japan.